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Julio Jones frustrated with lack of red zone targets as Falcons lose 5th straight

Jones is nearing career bests in catches and yardage but the Falcons are losing and he hasn't caught a touchdown in four games.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is unhappy with the team's play in the red zone, and blamed much of his frustration on the play calling. Despite boasting the league's fifth most productive offense from a yardage standpoint, the Falcons average just 23.3 points per game, ranking 14th in the league.

Jones was asked why he wasn't getting targets in the red zone following the team's fifth consecutive loss on Sunday, and specifically why he wasn't getting fade routes and jump balls called his way.

"I just go out there and just do what I'm told to do," Jones said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN. "If we're getting those looks, I think they'll call those plays. But I don't know. I don't know what we're getting down there. I don't know what the thinking is as far as if we're going to throw the jump balls or if we're going to run the ball or whatever look we're getting down there."

With 102 catches for 1,338 yards, Jones has had no problem being productive this season. But he has just six touchdowns on the season, and hasn't caught a touchdown pass in Atlanta's last four games. His last touchdown came in an overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8. The Falcons again lost a close one to the rival Buccaneers on Sunday.

"We practice throughout the week throwing jump balls, throwing fades, throwing all these little things," Jones said. "But when the game comes, you never know what's going to come up."

Jones was targeted four times in the red zone on Sunday, with two catches. He was not targeted in any of the five goal-to-go situations. Atlanta scored just one touchdown in three trips to the red zone when Matt Ryan hit Nick Williams for a 6-yard touchdown.

Part of the problem is the fact that Ryan leads the league in red zone interceptions with four. Ryan has thrown 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this year. He's on pace to pass his previous season high of 17 interceptions, set in 2013, and could finish with his worst touchdown total since he had just 16 in his rookie season back in 2008.

Prior to Sunday's game, Ryan said he has been "a little overwhelmed" by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's playbook at times, according to ESPN. Shanahan has said he will listen to any of Ryan's complaints, but that getting the offense rolling takes time. He began installing the offense in January of this year, when he was hired by new head coach Dan Quinn.

Shanahan previously spent time with the Houston Texans, Washington and the Cleveland Browns. He did not find success in Washington and resigned his position in Cleveland after disagreements with the front office.

Jones is clearly the best player on the Falcons roster. He's nearing a career year in yards and only needs two more catches to set a career record for himself.  But he's an obvious target in the red zone and with a lack of proven weapons opposite him, teams are doing everything they can to take him out of the game. The offensive line play has not been up to par this year and Ryan is uncomfortable. The running game with Devonta Freeman has slowed down considerably in recent weeks -- Freeman last eclipsed 100 yards rushing in the team's last win in Week 8 and missed two games due to a concussion. A jump ball to Jones seems like the predictable call, so Shanahan is likely wary of calling it, despite Jones' clear frustrations.